Potash cooling: The decarbonization challenge
Raw bulk materials go through numerous steps while being transformed into valuable products. Yet these steps often require emissions-intensive equipment and high energy inputs – which carry considerable operational costs.
Such equipment also creates a dilemma for today’s fertilizer producers who, as they seek to minimize the environmental impacts of their operations, require scalable and low-cost options for decarbonizing production. These low-carbon production options also need to achieve a high return on investment while still delivering high-quality final products.
In the March-April issue of Fertilizer International magazine, Igor Makarenko, Global Director, Fertilizer at Solex Thermal Science provides insights into how this struggle is playing out in real time for potash producers. Many industry players have already acted – or are committed to firm future targets – to improve their energy efficiency, reduce their operational carbon intensity and make the transition to renewable energy.
"Despite this, many common pieces of production technology that are still in place in the potash industry today are actively working against the sector’s carbon-cutting efforts. The cooling stage being one example," writes Makarenko.
In the article, Makarenko identifies the historic challenges of traditional direct-contact (e.g., convection) cooling equipment such as fluidized beds and rotary drums, as well as energy-reduction opportunities with indirect alternatives such as plate-based moving bed heat exchangers (MBHEs).
Of note, he discusses how recent developments are allowing MBHE technology to capture low-grade thermal energy for use elsewhere in the plant - for example, pre-heating combustion air, via an air-to-fluid pre-heater, for equipment such as a fluid bed dryer or rotary drum.
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